There's no doubt that social distancing has put a stop to many of the face-to-face conferences and other events where you have been used to growing and maintaining your industry connections. But there are many ways to achieve the same — or even better — results through digital channels.
Consider how many people are working from home now. Without the interruptions of a busy workplace, they're easier to reach; and they often have more time and interest in communicating. And now we all have something new in common: how to cope with our new economic reality.
Touch base with existing contacts.
Former coworkers, advisors, classmates, friends, relatives — they all count as network connections who may lead you to your next position.
Send an email to ask how they're doing during this crisis and offer to help in any way you can. Some of them may be in a chaotic situation right now, so keep the focus on empathy, not asking for a favor or selling anything. You're just making a thoughtful gesture that they'll remember later.
Reach out to new contacts.
Do some research on LinkedIn or other professional forums to identify people whose work you admire, check Meetup for those who have similar skills and interests, or look for potential mentors in a field you want to enter.
Choose professional communities that are working hard to support their members during the pandemic. Those are the ones that will continue to be active afterward.
Another way to find new contacts is to get involved with the many relief efforts that have been set up to help COVID-19 victims or essential workers.
Update your online presence.
Speaking of LinkedIn, when was the last time you even visited your page? It was the last time you were job hunting, right? Like other social media, social distancing has made this site much more important for recruiters, so now is the time to be as visible as possible. Add recently acquired skills and experience, ask your contacts to recommend you, join professional groups and comment on other people's posts.
The same goes for all your other social media. Are you maintaining an image you want potential employers to see? Because they will see it, for sure.
Set up remote meetings.
You can't get together with your network contacts over coffee, but you can certainly Skype chat. If they're as antsy isolating at home as you are, they'll love the chance to socialize, discuss possible job or career moves, and even share pandemic coping strategies.
In fact, staying at home may be the best way ever to build your network. And you'll be ideally positioned to make that network pay off when the pandemic is over.